The Problem with Moodle UI

The Problem with Moodle UI
July 13, 2016 Rajiv Sathian

moodle-responsive-theme

I like Moodle. I do.

There’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular LMS available today.

Not only is it free, but it’s packed with a great deal of functionality.

As an LMS administrator Moodle’s got you covered with all the features you need to set up your courses, assignments, quizzes, drip-feed content, track student progress and more.

The challenge is to cope with its clunky user interface.

RemUI

User Experience: Moodle’s Achilles Heel

The thing is, Moodle is super-powered with e-learning functionality, but not with user-experience.

What exactly was wrong?

  1. I remember the interface being unintuitive, when I think back to my first experience of using Moodle.
  2. I felt clumsy exploring the settings. I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to look or head when discovering simple options.
  3. Navigation was overwhelming due to the sheer number of sub-menus.

The latest Moodle update is the same story-

  • It lacks appeal.
  • The simplistic user-interface appears dated.
  • The lack of structure is a challenge, especially for new users.
  • The raw interface makes the learning curve steep and creates a poor experience.
  • Students and administrators struggle to find their way around complex settings.

But, I’m not the only one who sees this as a problem.

You needn’t take my word for it. Here are a few excerpts from Moodle reviews on Capterra:

“Pros is that it is free, open source and easily accessible. Cons is that you have to have programming background, it is time consuming to set up course. Also it is difficult to find stuff”

– Janice Harrison, Learning and Development specialist, Sanofi Pasteur

“Moodle is a great LMS but since it’s open-source, you have got to figure out many things… I like the immense possibilities in terms of delivering content and providing interactive materials but it’s not user-friendly and require long navigation. A great tool but could be improved.”

– Fanny Passeport, Stonehill International School

“Simple userface, but maybe not as pretty as it can be. Would be great to see it use HTML5 and be more modern and user-friendly.”

– Sachi Williamson, Self-employed

“Moodle has some nice capabilities, but needs a cleaner, more user-friendly interface”

– Stephanie Weirich, Staff Developer, Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12

Can Moodle’s User Experience be Improved?

So the question is, can this be changed? Can Moodle’s user interface be improved? Can elements be added or restructured to improve user experience?

Well, before we continue, let’s break down the problem into achievable tasks. Here are a few examples:

Clearly defined Sidebars/Sections

This is a user-interface problem.

Now, a major problem I faced was the poorly highlighted settings. Addition of a different color or clearly defined boundaries could break the continuity and help clearly identify settings panel from the content area.

Color Coding for Improved Visual Appeal

In continuation of visually compartmentalizing sections, color coding helps improve the overall appearance of a website.

Color can reinforce branding and can improve digital accessibility.

Research from QuickSprout indicates that 90% of all product assessments have to do with color. “Color,” writes Neil Patel, “is 85% of the reason you purchased a specific product”. It’s a no-brainer for any website that color affects conversions. Big time.

– Kissmetrics, Psychology of Color to Increase Conversions

Configurable Widgets and Quick-Links for Easy Navigation

Moodle has way too many options which often confuse users. User experience can be improved by providing users an easy option to reach pages they are looking for. This could be done by categorizing links in the sidebars, creating custom menus, configuring widgets or links to important pages or settings.

“Why is Moodle still so ug*y after all these years?” asked an agitated Moodle User on Quora

To that, Martin Dougiamas – the founder and creator of Moodle replied:

“…Moodle is a complicated system with many layers and while it’s tempting to compare it to other things, you need to remember it’s simply way more complex than nearly anything else – more than Facebook, Twitter, Drupal, WordPress, or any other app.”

He further went on to add that they primarily focus on stability, performance, backend functionality, education features, accessibility, and standards, so the User Experience end always takes a backseat.

We understand your priorities, Martin.

This is where we advise you!

A step towards improving Moodle’s UI and UX is using a theme. A theme is not only used to change the look of your Moodle LMS but can be used to change the feel.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when picking a theme:

  1. Pick a theme that keeps end users and learners in mind. A good theme provides shorter navigation paths, and makes it simple for students and the administrator to use the LMS
  2. Sure color is good! But make sure there isn’t a color overload that distracts learners. Look for a clean design with templates that are well spaced out, and with uniform use of color, font and headings
  3. Make sure the theme is responsive and provides uniform layouts, making it easy to use

 

Endnote

Maybe using platforms like WordPress has spoilt me; I’ve come to expect a certain level of sophistication when it comes to user interface. And when it comes to Moodle, that’s completely absent.

Seasoned users and Moodle proponents have come to accept the look and feel. But you have to agree- there is room for improvement.

Without taking anything away from Moodle – an LMS that beats its user-friendly competitors hands down – but a change brought about can improve their learning experience multifold. 🙂

Comment (1)

  1. Tamara 1 year ago

    Rajiv,
    Not sure you even look at this but I am having a problem with Moodle that no one at my University can fix. I had a course all set up and wanted to change the layout to grid. As I didn’t have enough modules open it crammed the entire course into the first week. Other than moving one piece at a time is there any other way to fix this?

    Thanks

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